What You Missed at RIOC's October Board Meeting

RIOC has a lot on their plate this month, including an assessment of the long out-of-commission Motorgate escalators. The agenda for the October meeting was a lengthy 17 items, that included Lighthouse renovation plans and possibly future access to the local landmark, as well as a new playground and dog run. Here is what you missed!


Did you know RIOC was responsible for eight elevators on the Island, a number that includes the two at the Manhattan Tram station? They have hired a consulting firm to perform an initial assessment and engineering review on all of their elevators and vertical conveyances – I see you, Motorgate escalator, – to provide a comprehensive report identifying, by priority, the short and long-term required repairs, upgrades and recommended capital improvements to ensure compliance with applicable City, State and Federal regulations, including ADA, as well as best practices. Tamara Andreatta, RIOC’s Director of Asset Management is not optimistic for the future of the escalators but, hey, you never know.

(If you’re wondering, the eight elevators are: two sets in Motorgate, north and south; Good Shepherd, Cultural Center/Public Safety Department; Sportspark, the Youth Center; and the two at the Manhattan Tram station.)

Tram Elevator Breaks Ground

The Tram elevator project got off to a slow start, but according to Steven Noone, RIOC’s assistant director for capital planning and projects, “they’re finally scratching earth.” You can see the hole in the ground from the top of the stairs on the Manhattan side. He said that the coordination with NYC Parks was a lot more “strenuous” than he had expected and that it’s been difficult to coordinate with the Department of Buildings because the Tram lacks an address. And since the project is above the 60th Street subway tunnel, they also have to deal with the MTA. But it’s moving forward.

‘As-Builts’ are Coming

RIOC hired Cameron Engineering & Associates to bring their irrigation systems up to code, including above-grade and heated backflow prevention devices. Moving forward, the group will also set up a testing protocol, as well as filing permits with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. “So now we will have ‘as-builts,’” said Noone, referring to the final set of drawings a contractor files that document work, changes, construction processes and the location of all elements of the work completed and maintained.

Steven Noone addresses the RIOC Board at the October meeting

Those drawings were not archived for any of the water fountains on the Island. Had they been, they could have informed RIOC as to whether the playground fountains were connected to the irrigation lines or drinking water lines. Water from irrigation lines is considered non-potable, regardless of what test results say.

The board voted to add some money to the pot to allow RIOC to repair roads impacted by winter weather. “Last winter was pretty bad, and that creates a lot of road problems,” explained Andreatta. She said “the goal is to be ready to roll out repairs without a meeting to approve funds.” Her main areas of concern are the area in front of the F-train, and on the north end of the Island, from the Community Garden up to Coler Hospital. She said there are cracks, potholes and collapsed drains apparent throughout the Island.

Blackwell Park to be Renovated

The board approved to move forward on what Noone calls his “passion project,” Blackwell Park. According to Noone, the park is a Dan Kiley design. Kiley, described by Noone, as “the biggest, best landscaper in US history,” was an American landscape architect in the modernist style who designed more than 1,000 projects, including the Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis and, in 1958, the Rockefeller University campus.

Kids playing in the Blackwell Plaza fountain, summer of 2013, before it was shut down for good

The plan is to preserve Kiley’s historic landscape by first restoring the plaza, including the fountain. Then the sandbox will be removed and exchanged for new, more challenging play equipment including climbing and rope play structures for ages 5 and up, a safe rubber flooring, a better seating and gathering area, a chain-link fence, and lighting and landscape upgrades. The basketball courts will be resurfaced and the pergola will be given some love.

Acknowledging a community of families with young children, when this item came up at the Operations Advisory committee meeting held last week, board member Michael Shinozaki suggested a town hall to gather community input prior to RIOC putting in any new play equipment.

Dog Park Replaces ‘Tot-lot’

There will be a dog park put in where the tot lot used to be, south-east of the sprinklers, to replace the one currently in Southtown that will be removed for construction of buildings 8 and 9. It will be a permanent home for the dog park.

Noone said it would be laid out with canine-friendly synthetic turf, fenced in, and double gated. The decision to place a dog park there was questioned by the board, with Shinozaki asking RIOC staff to consider the proximity of the dog park to the children’s playground and sprinkler area. In the past, there have been parent complaints that dog-owners let their dogs loose in the sprinklers providing an unsafe and possibly unsanitary environment for the young children who play there. Noone responded that RIOC has leash laws, and said that at New York City parks playgrounds and dog parks are often in close proximity to one another.

Rosenthal said that the alternative space for the dog park would be between Southtown buildings 8 and 9 but that she prefers the Blackwell Park space, because “without a dog park the space between 8 and 9 can be way more open.”

The Lighthouse Gets Some Love

Lighthouse Park, and even the lighthouse itself is finally getting some much needed attention. There will be long overdue footbridge repairs. It took two years after the bridges floated away during Hurricane Sandy to finally replace them and, since then, they have again fallen into disrepair.

The Lighthouse and Lighthouse Park, the footbridge flooded away

after Hurricane Sandy

Noone said they will get it right this time. Besides footbridge repairs, he listed park landscaping, adjacent pavement work, and creating a habitat with salt riparian plant material and fruiting shrubs.

There is a reason that is a problem area. Berdy explained at the Operations meeting that, “If we go back to 1780, that was a separate Island. When the City bought the land they were going to use it for hangings.

As for the lighthouse itself, Noone said they are contemplating access to the

lighthouse after the restoration that will consist of swapping out the wood stairs for metal ones, major masonry work, and restoring the cupola on top of the structure

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